The following are part of the larger Living Prophets podcast, the voice of liberal religion in the modern era. I reached a milestone (Oct 2018) in publishing 50 episodes over 14 months.
These 12 episodes focus on what makes activism effective, and how we can make a real difference in our own communities by being a certain way, especially around people who think and feel and identify differently.
Episode 38: MLK: How to love your enemies
Martin Luther King, Jr was an amazing preacher. Listen to excerpts from one of his sermons on how to love your enemies. He says, “Jesus has become the practical realist… his commandment [to love your enemies] is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.” He argues it is the only pragmatic way to change the world, and restore unity where there hate has sown the seeds of division.
Episode 41: The Long Arc
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” is an often spoken idea from abolitionists to civil rights leaders. Martin Luther King used it often. This episode explains and illustrates what this means. This pulls from a 2007 William Schulz sermon — Schulz was a one-time President of Amnesty International and President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Episode 49: Jesus for the outcasts
What did it mean to be a woman in the time of Jesus? A child? a tax collector? A foreigner? Deniece Mason shares three stories about Jesus bringing dignity to outcasts. Their meanings change when read in the original Greek, and when viewed in the context of the times and when looking at what stories they followed in the Gospel of Luke.
Episode 37: Moral Vulnerability
here are three parts of being an effective activist:
(1) To protect and serve the vulnerable.
(2) To wake people up to the plight of the marginalized.
And (3) to practice individual witness to those who stand against progress as a bridge towards mutual understanding, reconciliation, and restoring justice. This explains is what that third part is all about. The lessons of history show that you cannot be an effective activist if you are not practicing moral vulnerability — ready to forgive, ready to be the first to sacrifice, ready to make peace without victory.
It’s a bitter pill, but if you are serious about transforming the world, it must be your life’s work.
Episode 50: My father’s identity
I share my own journey to understand my father — a kind and generous person who vents anger on twitter — through the lens of identity politics. Meg Barnhouse explains the divided camps of “radicals” and “respectables” behind all social change movements, and I wrestle with the choice we must each make between trying to replace or transform those with whom we disagree.
Episode 40: Power in a name
Two sermonlets about the power found in a name. Rev Justin Osterman (UU Raleigh) tells his story of when we served as a translator in Guantanamo. When he entered the prison cell, he did the most natural human thing.
In another story Rev Rob Hardies (All Souls UU DC) tells the story of Moses and the burning bush. “Tell me your name?” he asks. And the name God gave could change our entire world view, depending on how it is translated — for His name is both “I am who I am” and “I will be who I will be.”
Episode 47: Empowerment, or empirement?
Stories about the false promise of empowerment, and how the attitudes of colonialism, imperialism, and empire continue to affect our efforts at creating a more perfect world. I conclude with thoughts on how this can be traced back to the moment the purpose of Christianity was twisted when the Roman Empire (Constantine) adopted it as the state religion long ago.
Episode 44: Of mustard seeds and children in cages
Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral in Indianapolis, IN decided to cage the holy family in chainlink on their front lawn to prove a point about immigrants and refugees, and remind us about the Gospel message. This is the sermon that accompanied that protest, from July 2018.
Episode 43: The Redemptive Power of Love
In the sermon from the 2018 Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, American Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry gave an impassioned plea to live by the power of love. Inspired by MLK’s sermon about how to love your enemy, Curry reminds us that love could transform the world, if we could just be open to it.
Episode 39: #churchtoo: reconciling diversity within the movement
A core part of effective activism is individual witness — standing up to those who one sees and works with every day. This story captures one minister’s behind-the-scenes efforts to cleanse her church’s leadership of sexism and sexual predators, and the conflicts that emerged. Liberal institutions are not immune to #metoo problems.
Her efforts to foster healthy diversity within the church failed, and Susan was not just removed from the pulpit, she was defrocked by her ordaining denomination. One person’s pursuit of the truth was considered professional misconduct others.
Source: Susan Moore, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington, DC (2017)
Episode 35: The dream of racial justice and the courage to pursue it
Two sermons from two Unitarian Universalist churches (Washington DC and Tulsa OK) from MLK Sunday (2018) about courage and the journey towards justice that continues, 50 years later. Both tell the story of James Reeb — a UU minister and activist martyred in 1965 — an event that triggered the signing of the voting rights act a week later. Where does the courage come from to work for justice? What kind of daily activities helps us develop resolve? Martin Lavanhar and Rob Hardies offer some answers.
Episode 1: The Moral Movement
Rev William Barber is the today’s leading moral religious voice for a pluralistic society that provides all people with the rights that Martin Luther King Junior struggled to enshrine through the civil rights movement.
This “Watch Night” sermon was given December 31st, 2016 — In response to a fearful America who is not sure how to respond to the changing political climate under Trump. Location: Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, DC.